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Monday, 7 November 2022

Parker Pearson et al: we cannot possibly be wrong about anything......

This is a quick look at a new article, in which Parker Pearson and his colleagues defend themselves from the criticisms of Prof Tim Darvill in the same edition of "Antiquity" journal.

Parker Pearson, M., Pollard, J., Richards, C., Welham, K., Kinnaird, T., Srivastava, A., . . . Edinborough, K. (2022). How Waun Mawn stone circle was designed and built, and when the Bluestones arrived at Stonehenge: A response to Darvill. Antiquity, 4 Nov, 2022. pp 1-8.

In response to Timothy Darvill's article, ‘Mythical rings?’ (this issue), which argues for an alternative interpretation of Waun Mawn circle and its relationship with Stonehenge, Parker Pearson and colleagues report new evidence from the Welsh site and elaborate on aspects of their original argument. The discovery of a hearth at the centre of the circle, as well as further features around its circumference, reinforces the authors’ original interpretation. The authors explore the evidence for the construction sequence, which was abandoned before the completion of the monument. Contesting Darvill's argument that the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge originally held posts, the authors reassert their interpretation of this circle of cut features as Bluestone settings.

This is a very strange article which reminds us that Parker Pearson and his 14 colleagues are now so deep into a hole of their own making that they cannot get out of it -- so they will just keep on digging. Sad, but there we go....

They are intent here on tackling the criticisms levelled at them by Prof Tim Darvill.  They start off by complaining that Darvill's criticism was based on an old version of the site plan rather than the definitive one contained in the most recent publications.  That's rather a silly criticism, since the "additional information" obtained in the 2021 dig is no more convincing than anything that has gone before; and if anything it simply confirms the sampling bias and the obsession with a ruling hypothesis that was clear during the 2017 and 2018 digging seasons.

Quote:  "How do we know that Waun Mawn is an unfinished circle? Because it has an entrance, convincing arcs of stoneholes, and—most significantly—a centre. Amongst other features discovered during investigations in summer 2021, we identified a hearth located at the exact centre of the 110m-diameter Waun Mawn circle."

This is a classic quote which encapsulates the attitude of the MPP team -- come hell or high water, they cannot bring themselves to produce their evidence or to consider alternative explanations.  Instead, they simply tell us what we are supposed to believe, and think that we are stupid enough to be obedient.  So we are expected to believe it is a circle because they say that it is, that it has an "entrance", "stoneholes", an exact diameter, and a "hearth" at the "exact" centre.  That piece of exactitude is interesting, because in previous publications they have said that the so-called hearth is only approximately at the centre......

There is a lot of emphasis on the hearth and the oak tree whose 3m "upcast" lies on top of it,  and on the new "stoneholes" discovered in 2018, but they cannot demonstrate that any of these are significant or exceptional because they have only excavated a minute proportion of the site,  around the rim of a circle which they themselves have created.  We are expected to believe that the stoneholes are indeed stoneholes because they have been recorded by "a very experienced team".  We are expected to believe that the oak tree was special because they tell us that it was.  And so it goes on.

Then the authors come to the "likely sequence of construction" not just for Waun Mawn but for "such monuments" -- since the object of the exercise now is to demonstrate some significance for Stonehenge even if there are no actual links with Stonehenge that can be demonstrated.

At the end of it all they say the building of the standing stone circle was abandoned, leaving two substantial arcs incomplete.  They claim that the radiocarbon and OSL dates point to circle construction (although it was not actually constructed) around 3400 BC.  On the matter of stone removal, they claim that the radiocarbon dates place that around 3180 BC, raising the possibility that ....."Waun Mawn's dismantled stones were among the Bluestones taken to Stonehenge."  And then they say that the geological evidence shows that NO stones from Waun Mawn were taken to Stonehenge.   Oh dear..... 

Then we come to this classic paragraph:  "Even if Waun Mawn was not the source of any of Stonehenge's Bluestones, however, it must still be considered as a place of significance in the Stonehenge story. The abandonment of the Waun Mawn circle before its completion suggests either some form of breakdown in community/cooperation or external disruption of what was intended to be a major monument. The stones of the Preseli Hills are integral to Stonehenge and understanding the local use of Bluestones near to their quarries and prior to their use at Stonehenge widens our knowledge of the Neolithic of southern Britain, particularly the relationship between Wales and Wessex."

I have seldom seen such extraordinary nonsense in a serious academic journal.

The authors argue that the pit shapes of the Aubrey Holes are consistent with them having held bluestone monoliths rather than wooden posts, and they argue that the absence of bluestone chips (as in the supposed stoneholes at "Bluestonehenge") does not mean that the pits did not contain bluestones.  In other words, even if there is no evidence, you'd better believe what we say because we are the experts.

This is worth quoting too:
"Turning to the origins of the Bluestones in the Preseli Hills, there is further evidence that they belong with the start of Stonehenge Stage 1. Radiocarbon dates of 3020–2920 cal BC and 3270–2910 cal BC for the end of quarrying at the two Preseli outcrops from which the Stonehenge Bluestones were extracted are unusually close to the start dates for Stonehenge (Parker Pearson et al, 2019).  In such a scenario, some or even all of the Bluestones could have come direct to Stonehenge from their quarries. The hypothesis that we consider to be most plausible, however, is that some or even all of the quarried Bluestones were first erected in one or more stone circles that were dismantled and then moved from south-west Wales to Stonehenge and Bluestonehenge in the thirtieth century BC. Within the varied mix of Bluestone sizes and types—spotted dolerite, unspotted dolerite, sandstone, andesite, three types of dacite and three types of rhyolite—the strongly cleaved andesite, for example, would have been a poor initial choice for long-distance transport direct from a quarry. So why were those stones selected? It may have been the monument(s) rather than the individual stones per se that were selected for transport to Salisbury Plain."

At last there is a recognition that the sheer variety of bluestone monoliths at Stonehenge presents a problem for the quarrying thesis -- even if they studiously ignore all the other rock types represented in the debitage. By stating that some or even all of the Stonehenge bluestones probably came from dismantled stone circles around 3,000 BC we see the latest evolution of the bluestone narrative -- again unsupported by any evidence whatsoever.

The authors claim to know that monuments were erected close to the so-called "quarries" and subsequently dismantled -- but there are monuments all over the Preseli landscape, and they had nothing whatsoever to do with either quarries or Stonehenge. They also claim to know all about "the unparalleled transporting of approximately 80 Bluestone monoliths to form two Neolithic stone circles 170 miles away on Salisbury Plain."  All very fine, except that there is not a shred of evidence in support of the contention.

As a weary archaeologist said on a social media platform the other day, why on earth are we wasting so much time on this nonsense? 

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